Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 1/18/13
LOS ANGELES -- Their work for the evening done, LeBron James shouted out to Dwyane Wade over a deep crowd of reporters Thursday night inside the Miami Heat locker room, "What are we doing for your birthday?" Now 31 years old and slowly easing his way from the limelight, Wade yelled back at his prodigious younger teammate, "Flying across the country!" No worries, they already had their celebration. James and Wade combined for 66 points, and the Miami Heat put the clamps on Kobe Bryant for three quarters to take the 99-90 win over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. With a full 40 percent of the NBA's All-Star starters on the court for much of the game, Thursday's matchup might as well have been considered an All-Star Game preview. In that case, watch out, Western Conference. Miami's terrific twosome far outshined Los Angeles' stars. James had a season-high 39 points on 17-of-25 shooting. He added seven rebounds and eight assists. Wade scored 27 points on 11-of-20 shooting, and he also had five assists and four rebounds. Miami stole the momentum in the last two minutes behind James and Wade, who scored seven points as the Heat went on a 9-0 spurt to end the game. "Against good teams, it's always a game of runs," said Miami center Chris Bosh, who had seven points, six rebounds and six steals. "Especially when it's so close, those two minutes can make up the whole game. We pride ourselves on our defense, and we started out aggressive and finished up aggressive." The Lakers trailed 73-65 heading into the fourth quarter, but Bryant came alive late to make it a game. Bryant had 13 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, connecting on five of nine shots. In the first three quarters, Bryant, who was named the leading All-Star vote-getter -- narrowly beating James -- had nine points on 3-of-16 shooting while committing six turnovers. "Every shot he took we wanted to contest and not put him on the free-throw line," James said. "If he made some, we could deal with it -- he has 30,000 points plus. He's gonna get some points." Bryant topped 20 points for the 23rd straight game, the fourth-longest streak of his career, but the Lakers coughed up the ball 20 times on the evening, including 16 turnovers in the first half as Miami turned up the pressure. The Heat forced four turnovers and racked up four dunks as it built an 8-2 lead less than four minutes into the game. "We started the game how we wanted to start," Wade said. "We started off getting steals and turnovers, got ourselves into it. We did a good job running our offense, even when we missed shots. Obviously, me and LeBron were on the attack." Added Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni: "That's what they do. The first half we just started clogging things up and running down and the ball just quit moving. If it quits moving against this team, you're in trouble." Dwight Howard, the Lakers' other All-Star starter, had 13 points and a game-high 16 rebounds. Metta World Peace scored 16 points, and Pau Gasol added 12 points off the bench in his first action since suffering a concussion against Denver on Jan. 6. NOTES: Gasol made his return late in the first quarter and quickly scored four points and grabbed two rebounds. For the season, Gasol was averaging a career-low 12.2 points and 8.4 rebounds entering play Thursday. ... Wade missed last year's matchup with the Spurs on his birthday because of injury, The Heat defeated San Antonio 120-98 in his absence. ... Lakers guard Steve Blake (abdominal surgery) appears to be nearing a return, as he participated in light practice Wednesday for the first time since suffering the injury in early November. Blake, who had surgery Dec. 5, has played just seven games this season. His comeback has been delayed by a sore groin. ... The teams split last year's season series, 1-1, with each team winning at home. Bryant had 33 points, including 18 in the first quarter, to lift the Lakers to the 93-83 win on March 4, in the teams' last matchup before Thursday.
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